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What You Need to Know before Buying A Lift Kit

You vehicle was engineered and built to perform in a specific way at the height it is now by the manufacturer. However, despite auto makers traditionally discouraging the use of lift kits, the popularity of off-roading, increasing tire size and the power of “looking down” on other vehicles has led to expanded use of lift kits on pickups, Jeeps and SUVs.

The practice of installing lift kits puts stress on suspension components and other parts, often resulting in manufacturers not covering components under the basic standard warranties or extended service plans. Some manufacturers, like Jeep for example, now offer Wranglers with a factory-installed 2-inch lift that can be warrantied with an extended Mopar Vehicle Protection Plan. Vehicles with Mopar Lift Kits up 4 inches high installed by Mopar dealers can also be warrantied with a Mopar Vehicle Protection Plan and Mopar Lift Kit Protection Plan.

So, if you are considering the possibility of lifting your Jeep, Gladiator, Ram or Challenger, for example, you need know the pros and cons of lift kits, the types of kits and safety factors affecting the installation of a lift kit on your SUV, truck or car.

Pros and Cons of Different Lift Kits

Leveling Kits: The rear-end of vehicles are typically higher than the front-ends, which restricts the use of larger tires. Raising the front of your vehicle to the height of the rear provides clearance for larger tires and often the level stance makes the vehicle look more attractive.

Body Lift Kits: This method of raising a vehicle requires unbolting the body from the frame, installing 1-3-inch nylon spacers between the frame and body, and re-bolting. Body lifts are time consuming, but are more economical than suspension lift kits. Body lifts retain the factory suspension geometry and alignment while providing more tire clearance. These lifts create a gap between the body and frame, detract from the vehicle’s look by making the frame more visible and sometimes hinder the performance by changing the vehicle’s center of gravity.

Coil Lift Kits: This type of kit is also less pricy than suspension lifts, and puts space between the springs and body of .75 and 2.5 inches. Coil kits, also known as Budget Boost Systems, usually include longer shocks or shock extensions, longer sway bar links, brake line brackets and track bar brackets. Some coil kits feature taller spring spacers for the front and shorter spacers for the rear for JK Wranglers or larger shackles for YJ Wranglers for leveling, too.

Suspension Lift Kits: These lift kits allow the owner to raise the vehicle as high as the driver feels comfortable and use a much larger size tire and wheel combination. The annoyance factor of climbing into a monster SUV or truck, however, may not suit your family. Moreover, suspension lift kits will often roughen the ride, change the steering articulation, require more suspension components and increase future maintenance. When properly paired with specific shock absorbers and other components, suspension lifts will prevent body squat and excessive dive when accelerating and braking.

Suspension lifts come in two styles. The short-arm suspension lift kit is the most common for tough terrain and lifts vehicles under 4 inches. The long-arm lift suspension kits are for rock and mountain climbing, with the lifts ranging up to 10 inches. Such lifts can also conflict with towing restrictions, state safety regulations and void your standard and extended vehicle warranties.

Keep in mind, installing a third-party lift of more than 4 inches on a Jeep Wrangler, Gladiator or Ram 1500 will restrict the owner from purchasing both Mopar Vehicle Protection and Mopar Lift Kit Protection Plans. Wranglers, Gladiators and Ram 1500’s with Mopar factory-installed lifts of 2 inches are eligible for Mopar Vehicle Protection Plan contracts. Gladiators, Wranglers and Ram 1500’s with dealer-installed Mopar lifts of 4 inches or less must purchase a Mopar Lift Protection Plan along with a Mopar Vehicle Protection Plan to maintain warranty service coverage.

Safety and Handling Implications of Lifts

The higher center of gravity of lifted trucks, Jeeps, cars and SUVs means drivers must pay more attention to additional on- and off-road safety challenges.

Drivers of lifted vehicles need to forget about making tight turns and swift maneuvering since the higher profile will cause such vehicles to flip or rollover easier in the event of an emergency maneuver. And, rollovers if lifted vehicles will more likely result in serious damage and catastrophic consequences.

While the extra height provides an increased sightline above traffic and longer distance visibility, it reduces visibility in close quarters. The blind spots of vehicles with lifts are also larger, especially when small cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians enter and excite the blind spots. This means drivers of lifted vehicles must be more vigilant in watching their entire surroundings.

A lift kit also leads to decreased steering and braking ability. The steering geometry is impacted by the higher center of gravity and the larger tires. The reduced steering, braking ability and additional lift components require maintaining additional distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Drivers of lifted Jeeps, Rams and SUVs must be particularly alert for the safety of shoppers and children in parking lots. You might need to turn-off your vehicle, hop down and take a quick check for pedestrians before putting your vehicle in reverse, even if you have a backup camera.

Do You Really Need a Lift Kit?

Ram truck and Jeep owners get lift kits for two reasons: improve off-road performance and enhance a vehicle’s look. In addition, most Wrangler and Gladiator owners really do not need a kit because they a very off-road capable from the factory with or without a 2-inch factory installed lift kit.

However, depending on the desired tire size, ground clearance, off-road capability, look preferences and driving needs, installing a lift may be very beneficial for the Ram truck or Wrangler owner. Furthermore, truck owners often add lift kits and integrated suspension systems for farm work and outdoor sports, additional off-road control on steep hills and deep holes, plus reduced dive when braking and squatting when accelerating.

Ultimately, the goal of adding a lift kit to a vehicle should be to achieve the best balance between daily on-roading, off-roading, camping, towing and work use of the vehicle by the owner.

How to Choose A Lift Kit

Shopping for a lift kit require a lot of research if you want to enjoy and be satisfied with your choice over time.

From a budget consideration, leveling kits are the most cost-effective since only the front-end is lifted to match the rear-end followed by body lifts, offering 1-2 inches of lift for less expense with usually no required suspension modifications.

Coil or budget boost systems, with 30-, 31- or 33-inch tires and 2.5 inches of lift, are slightly more expensive because they upgrade the suspension, but not to the extent of a full-blown suspension lift.

The most expensive lift options are suspension lift kits -- short-arm kits with lifts under 4 inches and long-arm kits for 4 inches and taller – to gain ground clearance with improved approach and departure angles. It’s also important to realize that differences in JL, JK, TJ and YJ Wranglers require unique lift kit components as provided in special lifts kits offered by Mopar for Wranglers. The 2-inch Mopar Lift Kit for the Ram 1500 Classic also features exclusive lift parts with rear shocks and front struts tuned for oversized wheels and tires to retain the geometry, ride and handling of factory built Ram trucks.

Short-arm suspension lifts generally do not drastically change the steering geometry or the factory ride. These kits involve installing new coils, shocks, brake line extensions, bump stops, Jeep or truck sway bar links, track bars and possibly adjustable control arms to maintain the factory geometry, along with larger tires. As a result, short-arm lifts offer better off-road advantages for a reasonable price with less maintenance problems than long-arm suspension kits.

When long-arm suspension kits are installed the factory control arm brackets are completely removed, resulting in an extremely expensive lift installation and high future maintenance costs. This lift choice require all of the suspension and tire changes noted previously for short-arm lifts, plus drive-line component replacement, fender trimming along with welding and fabrications of the radiator, steering linkage and exhaust to maintain the factory-type geometry.

Concluding Thoughts

Driving safety, state regulations, vehicle warranty issues and vehicle utility are the overriding factors in determining whether to lift or not and how much lift. The right lift may look cool and increase your enjoyment of the vehicle, but if you make the wrong lift choice for your driving situation, lifting your Ram or Wrangler could be an expensive mistake.

Also, as you choose your lift, remember a Mopar lift kit of 4 inches or less professionally installed by a Mopar dealer on your Jeep or Ram can be warrantied with a Mopar Lift Kit Protection Plan and a Mopar Vehicle Protection Plan. Try our Quick Quote Calculator to obtain a Mopar Lift Kit Plan quote.

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